Most of us don’t give a second thought to how we use email. The messages keep pouring in every day, and we keep replying as we go without achieving much during the day. It can feel like a never-ending cycle. Almost like you’d be a slave to your inbox.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, it’s easy to rationalize your way of managing email if you put your mind to it. A few simple guidelines, a couple of ground rules, and a productivity hack or two can cut hours from your weekly email management regime.
Don’t believe us? Read through these email productivity tips for a chance to be proven wrong.
1. Check email only twice per day
Checking your emails 50 times a day? You probably shouldn’t.
Managing and responding to your emails once in the morning before you start any tasks that need deep focus. And then once again in the afternoon when you need a break from the other tasks.
This will leave the rest of the day for more productive work. Make sure to turn the notifications from incoming emails off so that you don’t feel the urge two check them more often.
2. Use the 1-click and 3-sentence rules
These productivity hacks might or might not work depending on your workflow, but they’re definitely worth the try.
- 1-click rule: commit to only touching an email once. You can perform multiple actions when it’s open, but the rule states that you have to do something once you open the email. You can archive it, reply to it or add it to your task list.
- 3-sentence rule: all responses should be three sentences or less. It’s that simple. Shorter replies equal less time spent on emails. You can modify this to 2-5 sentences, but the main point stays the same: don’t waste hours of your time crafting a polished reply.
If 3 sentences still feel too long, why won’t you try writing only 3 bullet points with Flowrite? Disclaimer: our AI-powered writing tool will turn those into a fully-fledged email.
3. Continuously unsubscribe
It’s inevitable. At some point, those mass emails and newsletters add up and start cluttering your inbox. The solution: every time you get an unwanted email, hit the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the message.
Consistency pays: after a week or two, you’ll have unsubscribed from 80-90% of the unnecessary emails.
Or if you don’t want to waste time doing this manually, there are services like Unroll.me which carry out the unsubscribing process for you.
4. Learn keyboard shortcuts
PSA: You don’t have to use Superhuman to benefit from keyboard shortcuts. Let’s take Gmail as an example.
First, check from the Gmail settings that the keyboard shortcuts are actually turned on: Settings → General → Keyboard shortcuts on → Save changes.
Then it’s just a matter of memorizing the most valuable shortcuts (the following are for macOS):
- Up and down = Move through your inbox. Press enter to open a conversation. Press X to select a conversation.
- P/N = Select a previous or next message inside a conversation. Press enter to open a message.
- Shift + C = Compose in a new window
- Shift + 3 = When a conversation is selected, this moves it to trash.
- S = Start a conversation
And so forth. You can find more keyboard shortcuts for Gmail here.
5. Try the 2-minute rule
Set up a rule for messages that are quick to deal with. If it takes under 2 minutes to respond, do it right away.
Of course, this email productivity tip doesn’t mean that you should keep your inbox open all day and react whenever new messages come in!
Rather, when you do reserve time for handling email, deal with the quick stuff first.
Did it work out for you? We’d love to know.
6. Set up filters and aliases
Filters are automation rules that redirect your email to correct folders as they hit your inbox. They save you the effort of sorting out the messages manually.
For example, you could create rules based on the sender address, the subject line, words included in the body text, size, date, and so forth. A guide for setting up filters in Gmail can be found here.
Aliases are a helpful feature that makes filtering emails easy. Gmail allows you to set up aliases using plus signs and dots in your email address.
For example, let’s assume you have an email address called email@example.com. You want to subscribe to Flowrite’s newsletter and filter the incoming newsletters to a dedicated folder. You can then subscribe using the address firstname.lastname@example.org, and the newsletter issues would still find their way to your inbox. You could then create a filtering rule directing all emails to that address to a “Newsletters” folder.
7. Use fullscreen
This email productivity tip one is super simple, yet effective.
If you have 50 tabs open simultaneously, it’s almost guaranteed that there will be a notification that breaks your focus. Or you simply decide that now is the best time to check your Twitter feed and that crypto meme from yesterday.
Eliminate the possibilities for getting distracted. Set your browser window full screen and make other tabs invisible.
- Windows: press F11
- macOS: press CMD + Shift + F
You can thank us later.
8. Schedule emails to be sent later
Sometimes it’s practical and polite to send emails at a predetermined time instead of the present moment. Time of sending can also affect the opening rate.
Gmail makes this easy. Just click the arrow beside the “Send” button when composing an email and pick a date and a time. As easy as that! Most email clients come with similar features, and there are plenty of handy extensions that can do it for you if you’re out of luck.
9. Use email to take meeting notes
This is a mind-blowing productivity hack (and yet so simple). Whenever in a Zoom or a Teams meeting, open up an empty email template and start taking notes.
Write quick bullets while in the meeting.
Finish the meeting 5-10 mins early and polish the notes up quickly for better readability.
Then, send them to anyone concerned.
And there you go: you’re ready for your next task or meeting without spending 30 mins writing up the memo.
10. Delete your emails
Not all of them, of course! Use the Eisenhower Matrix to separate your emails into four categories. You can create a folder for each category for easier processing.
- Urgent and important = Attend to these emails straigh away. But not before you sort the rest of your emails.
- Urgent and non-important =If possible, deal with these messages right after dealing with messages from category 1. If not, reserve some time from the end of the same day.
- Non-urgent and important = You can deal with these later, but remember to reserve time for them, so they inevitably get dealt with.
- Non-urgent and non-important =Delete or ignore these messages.
That was it, folks! All there’s left to do for you is to apply some of these email productivity tips to your workflow and see how many hours you’re able to save next week.
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